Caxton's Printing Press

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mdisalv1
Words 2128
Pages 9
Caxton’s eggs language trail

Exploring the roots of standardisation

Enormous variation, both synchronic and diachronic*, is a key quality of Middle English, and really defines this period of language change.
Patterns of conquest, invasion and settlement had had an enormous impact on people’s lives in the 8th to 11th centuries, but these were played out linguistically in Middle English, in texts from the 12th century through to the middle of the 15th century. At the turning point from Middle
English to Early Modern English, we need to consider what new catalysts brought about the next phase of language change.
*Diachronic means studying the language as it changes through history. Synchronic means studying the language at a particular point, without considering the historical context.

Introducing William Caxton
There were a number of catalysts, but arguably the single most important of these was technological - the development of the printing press, which enabled mass reproduction and circulation of cheap printed material. This was in many ways a revolution - books would previously have been hand-written manuscripts which only the very wealthy could afford to buy and have produced. In England, William Caxton was a major player in the development of printing.
Go to and read this short description of William Caxton’s life. Then make brief notes on the following points:
1. His birth place, his education, what trade he chose to follow before becoming a printer, and the status he gained in his initial career.
2. His relationship with the aristocracy, his literary taste, his choice of location for his printing business, and his output as a printer.
Now consider carefully how you think these factors might have influenced his attitude to the English language.

© 2009…...

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